After sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Dylan Smith finally debuted for the Arizona Wildcats on Sunday.
The 6-foot-5 redshirt sophomore scored six points in 14 minutes off the bench when the Wildcats walloped UMBC 103-78 in McKale Center.
“It’s fun to finally see him out there,” head coach Sean Miller said. “It’s been a long time if you think about it.”
Yes, it has. 604 days to be exact.
Before Sunday, the last time Smith appeared in a college game was March 18, 2016. That’s when Smith, then at UNC Asheville, scored 14 points in a loss to the Villanova Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Smith was suspended for Arizona’s season-opener for violating team rules which delayed his debut in Tucson, but Miller said Smith had a good summer and is one of Arizona’s top seven players (based on his performance in practice).
Smith led UNC Asheville in scoring as a freshman, averaging 13.5 points per game, and has often been regarded as one of UA’s best shooters. He shot 2-4 from 3 in his debut.
“He just adds depth,” said UA point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. “He’s another player that can play defense and shoot the basketball.”
Arizona is loaded on the wing, and Smith will be competing with several players for playing time this season.
Arizona’s offense has been far ahead of its defense thus far (rare to say about a Miller-coached team), so the way Smith — or any player — can become a mainstay in the rotation is by defending at a high level.
“Because we need more of those types of guys right now,” Miller said. “Not that everybody isn’t allowed to take a good shot, but we need more balance, we need perimeter players that can sign up to guard the other team’s best offensive player.”
Smith didn’t rate well as a defender at UNC Asheville, posting one of the worst defensive ratings on the team in his lone season with the Bulldogs, but he has been learning Arizona’s system for two years now, and Miller believes he’s improved defensively.
“And will continue to do so,” Miller said.
Smith had two blocks against UMBC, closing out well on 3-point shooters.
“Dylan is long.” Jackson-Cartwright said. “He’s 6-5, his arms pretty much touch the ground. So he got out there and blocked those shots. That was really impressive.”
Transfers can often be overshadowed by incoming freshmen, Miller says, but that shouldn’t be the case as evidenced by the overwhelming success T.J. McConnell and Kadeem Allen enjoyed in Tucson after sitting out a year.
Perhaps Smith is next in line.
“(Transfers) can hit the ground running,” Miller said, “and I believe he’ll add some much-needed depth for us.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire